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Free speech is an expansive term that is carefully elaborated in the United States constitution. Freedom of Speech is a right preserved in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and formally granted by the laws of most nations. In its simplest form, especially for explaining it to a child, freedom of speech can be defined as a principle that supports the freedom of an individual or a community to express their opinions and ideas without fear of retaliation.
Free speech can also be taken too far and when it starts to emotionally belittle, intimidate or trivialize other people that’s when it gets out of hand. An ongoing debate exists about where to draw the line between free expression, and offensive or harmful content. This gets far more challenging on online or social platforms.
The internet has opened up many channels for people to speak up about important issues such as human rights, gender equality and climate change to name a few. Social media has given people immediate access to news and information that bring to light the injustices we face every day.
While social media has made it easier for people across the world to unite their voices and band together for a common cause, it has also created opportunities for misinformation or irresponsible online behavior rooted in disagreement.
It's worth understanding that free speech is different from abusive language such as hate speech or any form of expression that is used to humiliate or degrade others. As much as we have a right to free speech, we also have a responsibility to see to it that we respect other people and treat them humanely and with dignity at all times. Disagreements will always happen but when we can speak our minds yet listen and respond objectively to each other, that is when freedom of speech is truly exercised. Freedom of speech happens when we can allow ideas to be expressed freely without endangering or intimidating others for they have a right to an opinion as well.
These are all very important issues to address when it comes to discussing freedom of speech with our kids as they enter the online world.
We can help our kids exercise their right to freedom of speech and expression in their everyday lives in these 5 ways…
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